The brass was a dull brown unshined unpolished and if you looked closely the darker remnants were the residue of dried blood.  He left it on the bureau and she does not touch it in her cleaning.  She leaves it where it is and begins humming.  The cat is following her.  Everywhere she wipes with a dust cloth he steps tentatively head down sniffing a paw in midair inquisitive—investigating her work.

Peggy Birger used to not be Peggy Birger.  Her married name before was Peggy Lane and her maiden name was Moscowitz.  She’d been remarried for a year now.  But the cat still belonged to her ex-husband.  At least the cat seemed to think so.

Evil is done as evil is seen Peggy’s mother used to say—Marry a man who ain’t blind.  She couldn’t say she took her mother’s advice.  Not at least until love turned to convenience and her relationship with her ex-husband was convenient.  Now when he whined about things being unfair she just made it harder for him to see the kid.  It wasn’t like he could make much fuss.  Not with Charlie in the house.  And as an employer.  The key to a divorce is to keep it on your terms. 

Another thing her mother used to say is a woman has her illusions built on stilts.  That way they don’t never have to touch the ground.  She couldn’t say she didn’t once love Oliver.  They had a son together, but just like the earth has its seasons folks have them too.  And a cycle once broken don’t never spin around again like it done before.  He let go and she didn’t grab back on.  The rest sort of took care of itself.  She’d moved on.  Wasn’t for her to feel sorry for those that didn’t.

Charlie made sure she got a cut of his take.  For the baby.  The rest he gave her was considered a gift.  The motives for it relinquishing her from gratitude.  She saw herself as high-minded to let him have a say at all in the affairs of their child, and when questioned by him about her motives—well, a real bitch would have done worse.

Things with Charlie weren’t always so great, and when she got down she turned to her mother’s religion.  She liked that because then it gave her an enemy.  Not an enemy inside herself, but outside.  Inside was all peace and tranquility, and when the outside dared to disturb her or question what she should do or not do or even have the indecency to accuse her of hypocrisy in how she looked at herself compared to how she looked at others—why then she would hum a hymn and by God if any of her enemies were present they would surely flee from her firm and unshakable stance that God surely loved her blessing her with mercy while those who would deign to put her salvation at unease would feel His vengeance.  She had quite a thing going.  As her mother would have said the power ain’t in God’s hands.  It rests with those not afraid to use it.  And fear has everything to do with guilt.  Peggy Birger had never lived a guilty day in her life.  It just wasn’t in her nature.